Phoenix rockers Scorpion vs. Tarantula came down to Phoenix Center for the Arts for another installment of Rise on Radio Phoenix. They assembled a superb playlist including a track of their new self-titled EP. Listen to the podcast here and don’t forget to check out the complete playlist below!
Continuing his series “An Insider’s Introduction”, Mark delves into the person and persona of Roddy Nikpour, a man of many talents. In addition to the brooding, instrumental orchestrations he helps create under the moniker -ghost island-, Roddy also moonlights as a dancer in the experimental musical endeavor known as Treasure Mammal. Mark talks to Roddy about music, destroying personal bubbles, teaching latin, and what’s next for -ghost island-.
Mark Anderson for YabYum: How long have you lived in the Phoenix-Valley area? When did you become involved with the music/art scene?
Roddy Nikpour: Despite briefly living in Utah and Maryland as a child, I was born and raised here in Phoenix, specifically in Ahwatukee, where nothing exciting ever happened. When I moved to Tempe in 2011 and decided I liked “real” music, I started volunteering for KASC the Blaze 1330 AM, where I gained a more appreciable taste for music, and I attended a lot of house shows. That was my introduction to the scene as an outsider, but performing as a soloist and with bands has also helped me to network with bands and organizations who make the scene what it is.
Were you in other bands before ghost island?
RN: Before -ghost island- (as it’s stylized), I started a band in 2010 called Anchors, later renamed Ursus Colossus, with my best friends from high school. That was my first venture into composing instrumental music, and I aimed very distinctly to emulate well-known bands like Explosions in the Sky, but I have branched out since then. We wrote two albums and one EP, played many shows, and just had fun. With the pressures of school, and not to mention the fact that our drummer moved to Flagstaff, it became increasingly difficult to organize practice sessions.
Through the connections I made in the scene, I was fortunate enough to meet John Romero, who was in his own band called Cassiopeia, which had just broken up. At this point in late 2013, he told me he needed a live guitarist for his solo project, which was -ghost island-. It then flourished into the collaboration that it is now, and could rightfully be called a “band”, rather than just his project. All this time, of course, I have also partaken in composing soundtracks for student and independent films.
I’ve always loved instrumental bands/music but have never been in one, what compels you and your bandmates to connect with an audience on a purely musical basis? It’s quite like an orchestra really…
RN: Writing and playing instrumental music is one of the most liberating activities to me. My greatest motivation–besides the fact that I cannot write lyrics without them sounding like a nursery rhyme, unless they are composed in Latin, which nobody would take seriously anyway–is that music without lyrics can mean anything to anyone at any time in their life. When I write a riff, it might be about a specific idea in that moment, but something totally different to me based on what I’m dealing with on stage. The same applies to the audience. So, when -ghost island- performs for an audience, in some ways, it’s less about engaging them explicitly, and more about the implicit immersion they feel: physically, with loud sound, and emotionally, with ambient melodies. Even if we don’t often look at the audience, we do hope our listeners walk away from live shows with a genuine emotional stimulus, because that’s what instrumental music has always been about: conveying raw emotion.
When and how did you join the ranks of Treasure Mammal? Please describe what you do for the band.
RN: Meanwhile, in the world of explicit (and expletive) engagement, I seamlessly jumped on board Treasure Mammal in 2014. After attending enough shows as an audience member, Abe [front man of the group -Eds.] finally asked, “Why don’t you just be a part of the band?”, to which I replied, “Why the hell not!” Needless to say, it’s almost an exact opposite experience to -ghost island-; I contribute nothing musically to Treasure Mammal, and it’s goofy as hell.
Alongside several other talented individuals, I am one of the token dancers, forcing people to abandon whatever spacial bubble they established that evening. Yet, the commonality between these projects is that they elicit emotional responses in two totally different ways. While -ghost island- is very brooding, causing one to become introspective and ponder themes like mortality, Treasure Mammal focuses on the joys and sorrows of the everyday human experience, rejoicing in what little meaning we find in socializing despite the hollowness of the universal void. And I think that’s neat. Plus, who doesn’t want to let their inhibitions go by wearing spandex in front of an audience?
How about your role in Radio Phoenix, when did you start volunteering with them? Is a future in broadcasting on your horizon?
RN: As I mentioned, in 2011 I began getting involved at ASU’s student-run station, KASC the Blaze 1330 AM, where I unearthed a passion for radio broadcasting – everything from hosting a show to working behind the scenes. I love the technical side, and it’s an awesome medium for sharing art and conversations that matter. I rose through the ranks, interned at KJZZ, and decided I needed to keep doing it; doing radio is the one activity wherein I hardly notice time passing, my stomach growling, and my bladder pulsing, which is to say, I get entirely too immersed in it.
Upon graduation in 2015, I couldn’t lock down a radio job, so I decided to spend the year teaching Latin until something came about. That’s when I started volunteering for Radio Phoenix, where I continue to learn more and more about the world of broadcasting. Having been a recurring face at the station and expressing a desire to produce shows, I began producing My Word of Music with Walt Richardson and Soul Deluxe, two nationally-syndicated shows from our studio. From these efforts, I was volunteer-promoted to the title “Associate Producer of National Programming”, complete with an email address and everything! The goal is to actually make a living doing this kind of thing, which I admittedly once thought was becoming obsolete, but then realized it would always be around in some form or other. Either way, I’ll always have my podcast, The Post Office, which features two hours of ambient, mellow, instrumental post-rock music!
You teaching Latin is something I find pretty incredible. Is there a turn of phrase (and it’s English translation) you’d be willing to pass along to our audience to impress our friends and relatives with?
RN: Thanks! I’m glad someone in the world thinks that Latin is incredible. I have been studying it for almost nine years now, and there’s a reason I find it worth teaching. I’ve learned so many life lessons through Roman authors, and learning the mechanisms of the language itself. From Lucretius’s Epicurean realizations, to research on the seven deadly sins, to my original translation of an episode of SpongeBob, Latin has pervaded my life. There are so many wonderful phrases to choose from, but I’ll leave you with this pleasant line: elige cui dicas, “tu sola mihi places” (“Choose someone to whom you can say, ‘You alone please me’). This, of course, is from Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, informing the reader of ways to get laid when you’re out in public.
What’s in store for -ghost island-? Any upcoming shows?
RN: We are currently in the process of writing a sophomore album. Most of the songs are written, but we need to track them still, and we’ve been taking our time since we’ve still been making merch for our first album, we just barely received CDs and shirts to promote the first album. Still, we plan to get recording underway soon. This next album is going to be a concept album based on emotions, so our song titles range from things like “Your Joy” to “Your Equanimity”. Admittedly, it might seem a little hokey, but we want to put a new light on it, being an ambient, instrumental band.
Otherwise, we have one show coming up that we’re excited about alongside So Hideous, Bosse-De-Nage, and Pocket Leaf. The show is at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, and while it is for ages 21+, admission is free! The show is on May 5 and starts at 8 PM.
I just have to share that “glacial” is playing while Lenore is randomly watching a classical dance class from China. It’s like a Dark Side of the Moon – Wizard of Oz thing. I’m almost frightened.
By all means, you can/should put this in the interview.
For more information about -ghost island-, readers can visit their Bandcamp or Facebook page.
Tucson’s Ohioan is preparing for their release of a limited edition tape through Baby Tooth, a cassette label. “Bad Attitude” is the first single from the forthcoming EMPTY // EVERY MT. I was just about halfway through my first listen (which, btw, is four minutes into this almost eight minute song) when I knew this was a tape I needed to own. “Bad Attitude” moves from meditative moments of desert drone to a rustic ruckus of psychedelic Americana and back again. I love it. I have to have it. The cassette from Ohioan is currently available for pre-order through Baby Tooth here. Place your order early before they sell out and you can join me in the wait for the official May 13th release.
The strange and wondrous musical combo of Ariel Monet and Kalen Lander, also known as Snailmate, has a feisty new track available for fans on a 7″ split with Austin act, The Buglies. “Radio DJ” is funky, convivial, and a little bit dirty. Snailmate combines drumming with synths and a spunky lyricism for an electro-hiphop sensation. If you like things weird and ruckus, look no further. Check out “Radio DJ” and place your order for the split, due out next month.
The latest release from the Phoenix power trio known as Please has an easygoing garage rock sound that I can easily see becoming a staple in the local bar circuit. “Hey Hey What Can I Do” brings to mind beat-up blue jeans and summer radio jams. The track will have you bobbing your head on the first listen and singing along by round two. The song deals with the topic of the infidelity so maybe that means it’s time for the band to focus on the music-making for a while. That’s a win-win. Fans get more tunes from Please and the band gets away from whatever problem lady (or lad) that inspired “Hey Hey What Can I Do”. Give it a listen.
Soft Deadlines released their LP, Critic, in November of 2014, but a couple of tracks got left on the cutting room floor that didn’t quite fit with the rest of the album. Now fans of Soft Deadlines can hear those songs because the band put them out as a single last month. The band describes their sound as “Dance-Punk” and I can definitely follow that thread through these two songs, but I find them more alternative than punk. There is definitely an aggression that drives the music and that’s punk so I’ll get behind the term. Check out “Triplicate” and “Means Everything”. If you dig what you’re hearing, I suggest delving into the band’s full-length, Critic, available through 56th Street Records here.
Christopher Shayne, former front-man of the now defunct Whiskey Six, released his first single as a solo act “Give A Damn” in February. Leaving some of the metal behind with his former project, Christopher Shayne delivers southern-inspired, dirty blues rocknroll with some country twang, perfect for the modern rock radio of KUPD. Although starting with a little banjo and the vocals, “I’m trying to remember if I give a damn”, the song quickly kicks in with heavy guitars and lickin’ riffs becoming the anthem for all who scream “I am just who I am.” Having already played some solid shows – including their debut at the Marquee and their recent Midway Stage performance at PIR for NASCAR, as well as opening in direct support for JACKYL at AZ Bike Week and playing the Jack Daniels Stage at Country Thunder – you should expect big things from Christopher Shayne, who truly does seem to give a damn.
Late one night in the summer of 2001, as I was basking in the luminescent glow of the boob tube, Conan O’Brien single-handedly shifted the paradigm of music on his talk show.
A quintet of skinny runts that looked like they had been plucked off the streets, given a shave and fresh set of clothes, took to the stage. The singer looked stoned, the bass player never moved, and the song kicked off with a flat riding thud on a floor tom. Simple chords from both lead and rhythm guitar followed, setting a tone for what sounded like a fun summer’s day at Coney Island. “Up on a hill is where we begin…this little story a long time ago” emanated in a gritty, distorted sheen from the seemingly disinterested vocalist. The Strokes had arrived, “The Modern Age” ushered in the new garage rock movement, and I was hooked. Nearly 15 years have gone by now…but it seems like it was only yesterday. Fond memories on this fantastic night in Phoenix, Arizona.
Fast forward to Record Store Day, 2016. The location: The “In” Groove. A young, fresh faced quartet hop onto the raw plywood stage and deliver not one but two equally raw performances. With a sound that draws from New York acts like Television and The Strokes, but adding a twinge of Buddy Holly for southern flavor, new upstart Cheap Hotels are anything but cheap.
And their debut release, Color TV, couldn’t be more perfectly titled.
Their overall indie/garage rock sound has a lo-fi quality reminiscent of “Is This It”, but the musicianship is as hi-fi as it is colorful. Ian Wilson (vox, guitar), Isaac Kolding (vox, guitar), Zeynep Ayla (bass), and southpaw Jordan Raub (drums) play their parts to perfection with a tightness equal to a lid on a pickle jar.
The EP starts with a low hum, then kicks into gear with a fun, frenetic swing on “Back So Soon”. Wilson channels his inner Casablancas on lead vocals while he playfully duels for supremacy with Kolding on guitar. Eventually they agree to disagree and realize they have something sonically special going. Putting aside petty differences, Wilson focuses on kicking some toxic chick to the curb, only to have her return in the end with “Wicked Witch of the West Coast”. Two words, my friend: restraining order.
Kolding makes the tag for lead vocal duties on the endearing yet melancholy track “Sunshine”. Wilson stays close by with a weepy harmony of: “Sunshine/Don’t hide away/Don’t you know you look fine today?/And I ain’t wasting no more time today.” Even though this is my favorite bit of songwriting, I’m not the biggest fan of all the drums being on one side of the stereo spectrum. But that’s me…it’s still a great song.
If anyone has ever grown up in a small town with nothing to offer, “ATM’s & Liquor Stores” might rehash those memories from a dark alley of a suppressed subconscious. In their most extensive song lyrically, Wilson steps back onto the mound and throws a barrage of imagery down the pike about desperate youth, rebellion, individuality and escapism, all while trying to find out the meaning of life. Crafty references of classic films like Rebel Without A Cause and The Great Escape have me guessing if the song is really about kids of today trying to break free, or grown-ups who once had dreams of leaving but came up short in their early years.
As a possible nod to another NYC band, “Got To Move On” sounds redolent to Interpol’s “Take You On A Cruise” at the beginning. Keeping in form with the album’s seemingly overall theme of people leaving, our young lads once again team up beautifully on vocals while Ayla gives her best performance on bass that could give Carlos D a run for the money. A great conclusion to a hands down stellar EP.
Now the question is: When will we see Cheap Hotels on our color television sets? Hopefully soon. Just leave already…you’re too good for Phoenix.
I’m Adam Dumper aka Dumperfoo, Uncle Dumps, or DumpLaRock. I’m a promoter, artist, and graphic designer. I run several events in town with my partners, The Blunt Club a HipHop/DJ Night, about to celebrate 14 Years in Valley as well as Motown On Mondays in Phoenix every Monday at Crescent Ballroom; WuTang Wednesdays, a monthly event at Crescent Ballroom; New Grand Fridays a weekly hiphop/art event at Thirdspace on Grand Ave. I’m also a live painter in the bands Drunken Immortals, The Insects and Catharsis.
How did you get your start?
I started out breakdancing in highschool and doing grafitti, moved into bar tending a huge club in the 90’s, and eventually into murals, live art, booking shows, and doing flyers. I’ve been doing this for a lil’ over 20 years now.
What inspires you?
Music, my friends, my girlfriend… Sometimes, to get inspired, I like to look at art and get in the mood to paint. That always helps!
What do you like about AZ?
The people and, believe it or not, I like the weather! I’ll take a few months of amazing weather and battle the summer heat by chillin’ indoors during the day…
Where can we see you(r) work?
Currently I’m painting at Blunt Club Monthly at Valley Bar. My Instagram is always current with my latest art and shows.
What would you like to accomplish before you die?
I’ve had a fulfilled life so I’m pretty content, but I would like to do some overseas traveling… which is on the radar at the moment!!!
What is your mantra?
Make peace with the past, so it wont screw up the present!!
The talented musician who preforms under the moniker I Am Hologram came down to join us in the Radio Phoenix studio for our bi-monthly installment of RISE! We now have that show available in convenient podcast form. The complete playlist can be found below with additional links to all the artists featured!
Closing the Distance is a new series in which we expose artists with desert roots who have since moved to other locales. Let’s bring this community a little closer together.
by Mark Anderson
Small Leaks Sink Ships got their start right here in the Valley of the Sun ten years ago. Fans and friends might know about the tenuous path the band was forced to walk that included such hazards as “shattered spines, missing testicles, and enough metal bone reconstruction to make Wolverine cringe”, but the couldn’t stop the music-making of this enigmatic force of four.
When Smalls Leaks packed it up and left the desert for a Portland address, we were saddened by the loss, but we knew this goodbye was not forever. The band has kept their Sonoran origins in their hearts and minds, keeping Phoenix on their tour schedule so the folks who loved them first still get the opportunity to occasionally enjoy the live experience that helped define the band.
I had a chance to chat with band member London Van Rooy about life with Small Leaks Sink Ships, the move to Portland, and the upcoming tour which includes a Phoenix stop at the Rebel Lounge on April 30th!
Mark Anderson for YabYum: Please tell us what you do in Small Leaks.
London Van Rooy: Drums, vocals, piano, and samples.
How long has SLSS been around now? It seems like at least a decade…
LVR: We just hit the ten year mark, even though there has been some considerable amount of time where we were incapacitated as a band.
What was your perception of the Arizona/Valley music scene when you moved in 2014? What prompted the move to Portland?
LVR: The Arizona music scene was extremely diverse and that’s what we loved about it. We made so many amazing relationships that we still cherish today. Unfortunately, the Phoenix music scene was also very spread out and a little jaded, which made it difficult to navigate at times. The move to Oregon was in the works for a few years. As individuals, everyone had been wanting to get out of AZ. Portland was Judd’s (vocals, guitar, piano) hometown, and I loved the NW from previous visits, so we figured, why not. Plus, after years of car wrecks and cancer, we all needed a fresh start and weren’t willing to part as a band.
What are your thoughts towards the Portland music scene so far? Had you played there before moving up?
The Portland music scene is pretty diverse as well. I mean, no matter where you go, people are people. You will meet some shitty ones and you will meet some truly remarkable ones. We had played Portland on previous tours and fell in love with the city. One of the neatest things about this town is how supportive and involved the people are when it comes to music and art. I went to a local show over the weekend where the curator made a compilation of all the bands playing and pressed it to vinyl, then proceeded to give it out for free to all the attendees. That is pretty rad in my book.
Do you guys have a similar home recording setup a la the Oak St. Basement where you can lay down different ideas? How is working on the new album coming?
Yes, we have a space at Suburbia Studios in Southeast Portland where we record and write all of our material. Not quite as private as the Oak Street location, but we love it. The new album is just about done. I believe this new record is definitely another evolutionary step for the band. In the past couple years, we have picked up new instruments, gone back to taking lessons on our root instruments, experimented with the writing process more and I feel that overall, we let go of our inhibitions on this one, taking the necessary risks to make an honest and fluid album. Can’t wait to release it!
How did “Love (a poem)” with Futuristic come about? It’s great.
Why thanks. That song came about kind of randomly. My close friend, Kody (DJ Kode Break) has been spinnin’ for Futuristic for some years now. I am always sending him new material the band is working on or just random beats that I make in my spare time to get some outside perspective on the music, plus Kody lived with the band for 5 years, so he knows what’s up. Anyways, Futuristic had listened to the tracks and decided to rap over that particular one. We tossed it back and forth a few times until everyone was satisfied with the finished product and then put it out there.
You guys are on tour! Where are you stopping? Anywhere new?
We go on tour at the end of April for 15 days staying on the West Coast. We will be playing in new territory like Salt Lake City, Denver, and Boise.
In all manners of speaking (musically, literally, etc..) where would you like SLSS to go in the future?
Speaking for the band, I can honestly say that we would like as many people as possible to hear Small Leaks. We would love to tour the world and spread our sound to every corner of the earth (even to the penguins in Antarctica). We believe that playing music is the ultimate expression of the soul and as a group, we have found an altruistic sentiment for each other and our listeners through sound.
For more on the band, peep their webpage. Also, make sure to catch Small Leaks Sink Ships perform with decker. and Emby Alexander at the Rebel Lounge on April 30 at 8 PM as part of their west coast tour. More info can be found here.